by Casey Miner
If you met Stephen Linaweaver after 7 a.m., you probably wouldn’t think he’s much different from any other Bay Area professional. He’s 38 years old. He works for a company that does sustainability consulting for corporations. He’s kind of outdoorsy. Whatever.
But if you met him before 7 a.m., you’d definitely think he was unusual. For starters, you’d have to do what I did, which is drive down to the Port of Oakland before dawn and talk with him while he’s getting ready to launch his kayak into the Bay.
“So, I basically put all my work clothes in here, in this dry bag, and just kind of roll them up, and they actually turn out surprisingly normal when you get to the other side. So, I bring that and I bring one other dry bag, which has like phone and keys and all that kind of stuff. Then I bring this flag, which I’ll show you when we get in, this is a late addition. I realized that no one can see me out there, so I put this on like my back, between my life vest and my body,” explains Linaweaver.
If there’s someone else who paddles a whitewater kayak from Oakland to San Francisco to get to work, Linaweaver’s never seen him. He’s never even heard of anyone else doing it, which means for the past year or so, he’s been figuring out the logistics on his own. And there are some serious logistics.
There may not be other kayakers, but there are plenty of other boats — really, really, really big boats. Linaweaver shows me the radio that helps him keep track of what they’re doing.
“The cool thing about this is that you have to travel in channel 16, and you hear all the big boats coming in, talking to the Coast Guard. On any given morning you’ll hear like four or five different languages, it’s pretty cool. You hear all the big freighters comin’ in,” Linaweaver explains.